Philip Tomasino’s goal was enough to lift the Nashville Predators over the Seattle Kraken, 2-1 in a shootout on Thursday night before 17,436 fans at Bridgestone Arena.
The night ended with the Kraken getting terrific goaltending out of Joey Daccord, but only one goal to show for their effort in a matchup that could bear heavy weight on the playoff push in the Western Conference. Now at 6-0-1 in the last seven road games, the Kraken still hold control, with a six point lead over Nashville with 11 games to play.
But a point slipped off the table, preventing the Kraken from gaining more space over the surging Predators, who were sellers at the trade deadline but now have acted in defiance with a 6-3-1 record in the last ten games.
“Hard fought, two way game,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “I liked our third period. I thought we generate, five maybe six good third period opportunities.”
“This time of year, when there’s a lot on the line, that’s the type of hockey it’s going to be. It came down to the shootout. Unfortunate we didn’t get the extra point, but we’ve got to turn the page quickly.”
Daccord made 23 saves in his second straight start since an emergency call-up, with Philipp Grubauer sidelined due to illness and Martin Jones on the bench.
Daniel Sprong scored the only Kraken goal, banked off Juuse Saros from behind the goal line at 2:28 of the first period. Keifer Sherwood tied the game with 5:59 left in the second period.
Saros, who stopped all three Kraken shootout attempts, made 27 saves in the game for the win.
1. Joey Daccord, playing well above the bar: We covered this in the previous postgame reflections, but it bears worth repeating: this was exhibiting A in “next man up” play. He wasn’t facing the horsepower of the Dallas Stars, nor even the Calgary Flames who he beat in November, but needing five goals of support to get a win. This time, Daccord nearly shut everything down on a depleted Nashville squad, entertained thoughts of a shutout for over half of the game and delivered two big stops in overtime. He wasn’t busy but was effective.
Whether this earns Daccord another start or not, he’s been excellent with filling the gaps in the absence of Grubauer, a linchpin in the Kraken playoff hopes. Daccord has looked calm for a goaltender with quick twitch movement, rarely has been beat cleanly (if at all) and supplemented the Kraken breakout with his premium ability to move the puck. Once Grubauer returns, Daccord by emergency rule has to go back to the American Hockey League. He’s also always eligible for a full recall (which would be a “paper move”). What the Kraken eventually do, if they make the playoffs and choose to roll with three goaltenders, is an interesting case: Daccord or Chris Driedger (who is stashed in Coachella Valley)? A pending free agent, Daccord’s play has screamed a very compelling argument.
2. The Kraken need Andre Burakovsky back. If there’s any team who relies on theory, “sum of all parts,” and not a one line show, its these Kraken, with 13 different players hitting double digits in goals. They could still, in theory, own six different 20-goal scorers by the end of the regular season. But losing Andre Burakovsky after the All-Star break, on a freak play of all things, has left a hole. The Kraken were 29-15-5 heading into the break. They are 10-9-2 ever since. They were averaging 3.6 goals per game heading into the break. They’ve dipped to 3.1 since coming out of the break. The power play has dried up again, five straight games without a goal.
Burakovsky plays premium minutes at five-on-five, is effective at the flank position on the power play with his shot and has been a terrific addition with 39 points in 49 games. He was well on his way to breaking career marks in Colorado before injury. The month is creeping into the late weeks, past due for Burakovsky’s scheduled return. The word is tight lipped with his exact return date, whether that means he’s suffered a setback, the Kraken have truly felt the impact of his absence.
3. Saturday’s game looms large. We’re basically at the same spot the Kraken were getting off the plane from Dallas – a six-point lead on the first team on the outside. Nashville has one game in hand on the Kraken, which means the chase is still in full Kraken control with 11 games to play. But the Kraken are aching for a regulation win, which could put the Kraken up by eight points with ten games left. Nashville is then up against the ropes for good, needing to gear up for Toronto, and two road games at Boston and Pittsburgh to end the month. The Kraken face a tough one next Monday at Central Division contending Minnesota but will then face six of the next seven games against teams who are mathematically or realistically out: Anaheim, Arizona, Vancouver, and Chicago.
“Expect a similar game on Saturday afternoon,” said Hakstol. “These two teams are going to be fighting hard for points.”
If there’s a game that demands the best out of the Kraken to make the right turn at the “easy way or hard way” crossroads, this is it.
KRAKEN LINEUP AT NASHVILLE, 3/23: